I was absent most of last year.
It was a busy year, and challenging in many ways. My energy went elsewhere and little time or space (in my head and in the world) was left for writing, on a blog or anywhere. So here’s a quick recap in photos.
Mom and Dad did us the great favor of visiting again during the winter. We had a wonderful two weeks with them, and the weather was pretty well perfect. We took them dune-bashing, and spent days at the beach. We played a lot of cards and board games, too. It’s always a treat to spend time with them, and no one was disappointed.
They brought along with them a very special stuffed monkey, belonging to a cousin whom we miss very, very much. The monkey accompanied us on every adventure, and photographic proof was sent daily to Facebook, where Ben got to travel along vicariously.
During the visit, the city opened the site of the old fort, Qasr al Hosn. They celebrated with a cultural festival that included falcons, salukis (the local dog, bred to serve the Bedouin), camels, dancing and singing, traditional foods and crafts made by locals.
The site is in the center of the city, placing the old fort in sharp contrast to the rising city around it.
We’re always sad when Mom and Dad head back, but we were satisfied that we wore them out pretty well. A successful visit, for sure. They got a break from the extreme cold back home, and we got a welcome interruption to the monotony of urban living and unchanging weather.
We were nervous about this trip, actually. I booked it because of a Groupon. For an excellent price, we had a dedicated guide–a former teacher, no less–who really made the trip so much more interesting than sight-seeing. We arrived just days after hotly contested national elections, and were relieved that nothing much happened while we were there. Definitely hope to return there someday.
Not long after spring break, we returned to the States for our summer vacation. We rented a shabby little apartment, in an effort to keep from overstaying our welcome with family or friends. Four months is a long time! Still, we tried hard to make the most of every hour together with beloved friends and family. The long days of Ramadan were tough, but we fasted and broke fast with friends, and it was wonderful to be home.
By mid-August, we started our second year of online school. Both kids are taking middle school French, and Noah’s doing Advanced Life Science, but the real challenge for us is balancing the required curricular work with our real life. About two weeks into school, at Baba’s urging, I booked Amtrak tickets out to D.C. Breakfast in the dining car was somewhere in Pennsylvania, I think.
It was a new experience for the kids to travel by rail, and Union Station is an excellent point of entry to the city. Our hotel was about two blocks from there.
Like our visit to Kenya, we could have doubled the stay and still wanted more. We rose early and ate big breakfasts, then spent the daytime hours at the Smithsonian museums. Early evenings were nice for visiting memorials and some exploring of the city.
On our final day, we rented bikes and rode the memorial circuit. What a perfect way to see the Capital.
We’re hoping to get back to D.C. for another visit. We’d love to do this one with our American cousins.
D.C. marked the end of our 2013 visit to the U.S. As always, we were sad to go, but ready to be back with Baba and to live as a nuclear family again.
We spent just two full days in Paris. I’d have booked more, but imagine how tired I am at this point: I’d been solo parenting since late May, with the Ramadan fast in there, plus all the schooling, the travel planning, packing/cleaning/shipping/shopping. By the time we arrived in Paris, I was wiped, and as much as I’d love a week to see the city, I am thankful that was not my week.
We did walk the steps to the second-level viewing platform on the Eiffel Tower, though. We had not planned in advance, so lift tickets were out of the question. Frankly, they’d have been wasted on us, anyway. The stairs were just what we needed that day. We used the Metro, got two-day Batobus passes, and stayed at a little old hotel close to the Pantheon. Meryem faced some rough patches, probably due to fatigue, but all in all the kids were amazing.
From Paris, we caught a flight to Casablanca and met up with Baba at the airport. He rented a tiny little car that, even though we each had just a backpack and a carry-on piece, was a tight squeeze. We spent nearly three weeks in Morocco, entirely among family there.
This year’s visit was outcome-focused. We didn’t do any sightseeing, but we did succeed in adding a bathroom to the old ksar house of the kids’ grandparents–no small achievement. There is now running hot water, thanks to a rooftop water tank. There are two toilets, both squat and Western, and a septic tank that meets code. (Yes, there are codes and inspectors, even up there in the High Atlas.)
Of course, we celebrated Eid al Adha with the family, too. So we ate a lot of meat. Unfortunately, we also ate something that didn’t agree with us, and lost nearly a week to the usual intestinal onslaught.
I’m not going to say more about the fleas than this: oh my God, the fleas.
Finally, we also successfully located a wife for one of Baba’s nephews. Actually, in just eight days, we found her, negotiated the terms of the marriage, got the contract written, and planned and executed the wedding itself. The morning after the wedding, we were in a grand taxi en route to the airport.
I flew from Casablanca to Abu Dhabi with a flea in my boot. (I am aware that this violates my own declaration, above.)
And here we are, once again.